By Elhag Paul
July 29, 2012 (SSNA) — Reading Kuir Garang’s article ‘They’re building Narcissistic Aristocracy not ‘Dinkocracy’………please!’ published in South Sudan Nation on 19th July 2012 is very interesting. I find it cleverly written in philosophical style to make maximum impact on the subject. Essentially the article reveals deep unhappiness with the word ‘Dinkocracy’ by the author. When this word was coined it was not intended to hurt anybody but rather to define the particularity of the type of government prevailing in RSS.
Kuir Garang’s article, though subtly abusive has many positive issues in it which should be taken seriously. However, it fails on the main subject of his argument which is, “Dinkocracy (Jieng-centricism)”. Dinkocracy is not Jieng-centrism as democracy or totalitarism is not eurocentrism. The two are way apart and totally different concepts though some elements of the latter could be part of the former.
Dinkorcracy as described by the ‘coiners’ to be specific refers to a system of rule prevailing in RSS. The full definition can be found in ‘Response to Mr Ateny Wek Ateny on Panthou War’ published by Allafrica.com on 22/05/2012. Whereas ‘Jieng-centrism like Eurocentrism refers to ways of thinking or world view of the Jieng people. It is how they perceive the world and look at the world from their cultural perspective. Jiengcentrism has nothing to do with system of national rule per se not withstanding the fact that some aspects of it can be incorporated into forms of governance.
Kuir Garang failed this first hurdle by equating Jieng-centrism to Dinkocracy. Secondly, for him to construct his own meaning to the word is ‘feloniously stupefying’. In addition, he fails to grasp the meaning of the word Dinkocracy and as a result he demolished his own felonious definition of the word Dinkocracy. This appears to be an act of desperation in an attempt to rubbish the word itself. . It is important to mention here and Kuir Garang knows it himself that he neither has the privilege nor the right to decide on what Dinkocracy means in order to negate it simply because he is not one of the coiners. This is the preserve of the ‘coiners’ of the term. Nevertheless, he has all the right to critique and unpack the word to pieces based on the elements of its definition.
Kuir Garang argues that “now, what is happening in Juba isn’t a Jiengcentrism. It is a pure aristocracy. These people are building a society were (where) capital elitism is the norm. How many of these so called ‘Dinka’ leaders have built their home towns. Building a sound Jieng centred society would have meant developing Jieng towns and villages at the expense of other tribes. This is so far not happening and isn’t going to happen.” The introduction of the notion of aristocracy in relation to RSS is not only inappropriate, but to some degree a distraction from what is happening in GoSS. Aristocracy is not applicable in the context of RSS because its main tenet centres on ownership of land and hereditary system. Aristocrats are land owning ruling people who the masses accept as rulers because they believe them to be superior. The notion of aristocracy has its origins in feudalism, nation state and the theory of chain of being.
Now RSS is not a nation and to the best of my knowledge it has never experienced feudalism. A nation is a society of people who share the same cultures and more importantly speak one language such as the French in France, the English in England, the Germans in Germany or the Swazi people in Swaziland in Africa etc. In RSS we are a society composed of different tribes with different cultures and languages. Crucially land is owned communally. Our traditional systems of local governance is predominately characterised by chieftainships with exceptional kingdoms (Chollo, Anyuak and Azande). It is arguable that historically South Sudan did not exist on its own as a nation. It is a recent construction of Europeans. Had the Europeans not demarcated Africa in 1884 in Berlin in the ‘Scramble for Africa’ perhaps South Sudan might never have been born, or South Sudanese might never have been part of Sudan as it could have been bits and pieces of different African countries. So, as South Sudan has never been a nation with its various tribes how can we talk of development of aristocracy?
With this clear distinction what ‘pure aristocracy’ is Kuir Garang talking about as developing in RSS. President Kiir and his acolytes are not land owners in the true sense of the word ‘landowner’. This same group has not inherited the power in RSS from an historical established system linked to their families, but rather it was obtained violently by gun. Most of these so called leaders hail from the same background like the rest of us, the only difference is that they are willing to act brutally towards anybody be they Arabs or South Sudanese. Therefore what we have in RSS is a tribal-junta dictatorship. In a sense it is the building and entrenchment of despotism and it is not the building aristocracy as argued.
Aristocrats are viewed as cultured, more intelligent and hence superior or in other word the ‘best’ in society. To understand this difference, it is important to peruse the history of SPLM/A to understand its militaristic nature. The SPLM power base lies in SPLA and SPLA is dominated by the Dinka. It is this structure that gives president Kiir the absolute power he exercises in Juba, which has been correctly described elsewhere as ‘One man, one tribe and one party government.’ People like Wani Igga, Alison Magaya, Kosti Manibe and even Riek Machar are powerless cogs but important for the smooth running of this Dinka juggernaut machine.
Arguments such as, “It’s neither Jieng or Nuer or Bari or Acholi that is the problem. It is the elitist, corrupt few who don’t and can’t accept that they are the problem when they know they are the problem,” is nothing but a manipulative distraction from the real issue which is SPLM/A. Scholars, journalists and the Jieng themselves in their minutes of meeting in Ark hotel in Kampala have certified SPLM/A to be a Dinka organisation. Therefore the solution to our social problems can only get solved by: 1) the Jieng people owing up and taking responsibility for their part in this abusive exploitative and irresponsible system that has existed for the last three decades (which is from 1983 to now). 2) stop deluding themselves that they will succeed in socialising or distributing their abuses to the other ethnicities in South Sudan by assertion such as the above by Kuir Garang. 3) accepting a full truth and reconciliation commission along the lines of what was done in South Africa as the basis for healing in the country.
Kuir Garang further argues that the elitist are the problem. For some time now, few among us have been duped to believe that the problem in Juba is created by elites. The use of this concept is again more of a distraction and does not help in addressing issues. If South Sudanese are honest with themselves, they need to take the bull by the horn. Let them be honest and truthful to themselves by calling a spade a spade. The solution to RSS’ problem will not come from hiding behind empty words such as aristocracy and elites which have no bearing to RSS. Facing the reality and identifying the problem by its name is the right thing to do for the good of the country. The diagnoses must be right for the right medication to be prescribed and administered to achieve healing.
Elites sociologically is a term applied to members of ruling class believed to be ‘the best’ in society by the members of the society itself. The characteristics they exhibit to a certain extent tend to show that they are crafty and convincing to the people. They too are cautious in managing the affairs of society. The process of elite development is slow. It takes generations to form over a long period of political independence. South Sudan has just attained its independence and there are scarcely any families now gaining respect from the people of South Sudan as worthy rulers. At the moment what is going on in South Sudan is the process of some families positioning themselves to gain recognition from the people as rulers. South Sudanese should begin talking about elites in about two to three decades from now. A good example of elites can be found in the Sudan with the Mahdi and Mirghani families who draw their power base from religion going back to 18th century. Their influence on the masses is visible. Their followers respect them for who they are and voluntarily accept them to rule over them. In the West, we have the monarchies and the political parties which are packed with elites. Now compare this to our one year old country ruled by scoundrels whose families are not even respected in their own tribes. The populace despise them for being miscreants. How can we at this early stage of our country’s development delude ourselves to credit these thieves with being elites when in reality they are a bunch of criminals backed by a specific tribal force? Governments ruled by elites are not ‘“government of idiots” who are “rotten to the core”’ as GoSS leadership has been described by Alan Boswell in his article, ‘The Failed State Lobby’. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/07/09/the_failed_state_lobby
The work of the two Italian philosophers Gaetano Mosca (1858 – 1911) and Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923) who are responsible for the introduction of the concept of elites in power studies show that elites are suave political operators who use culture, psychology, organisation and pluralistic means to achieve power. They sell themselves cleverly to the people to be accepted as leaders. Do you see the South Sudanese wilfully buying the thieving lot in Juba as leaders if it were not for the AK47? These are not elites at all; they are situational or circumstantial leaders created by combinations of tribalism and monopoly of arms. Actually calling these self imposed leaders in Juba as élites is to misuse the word.
Kuir Garang argues that not all the jieng including him are benefiting from the “instituted evil in Juba.” It is agreeable that he may not be personally benefiting from the ‘instituted evil in Juba’, but this does not mean that overall the Jieng as a tribe is not benefiting from president Kiir’s government and the spoils of the Oyee party. Presently over 80 percent of the army brass are Dinka, over 90 percent of most influential political as well as civil service positions are held by Dinka. The police and prisons department is 98 percent filled by Dinka. Every other sphere of life in South Sudan is suffocated by the Jieng. Proportionally the Jieng have the lion share of everything in the country despite the fact that they constitute only 18 percent of the general population. Just like in any other situation there are bound to be some Jieng who may not benefit but this does not negate the fact that the Jieng are predominately the beneficiaries of the system. In Apartheid South Africa not all the whites benefitted but the majority did and during colonialism not all the citizens of the colonising countries benefitted but their countries did. So, there are Jieng who inevitably will not benefit from Dinkocracy, but the majority do and will.
Kuir Garang stresses that Jieng young people are being killed or imprisoned in South Sudan. I have not heard of such. Members of the other tribes have for three decades been experiencing brutality from SPLM/A helplessly. Where is John Nambu? Who locked him in container until he decomposed (turned yellow due to lack of sun) and perished? Where is engineer John Luis? Who arrested him and disposed of him? Who shot the doctor in Yei? Who shot members of an entire family in Yei? Who shot the police officers in Yambio? These are just few of the many crimes being committed by this system. When Jieng like Arthur Akuein gets arrested for breaking the law, he is released by his tribes mate violently from prison and no further action taken. Additionally he gets appointed to the senate as a reward. When Jieng journalists get arrested, eventually they get released and invited to the president’s house at J1 for lunch. When Jieng people loot the system, they get letters sent to them asking them politely to return the money and if they don’t nothing is done. Does this happen to members of other tribes (those who are not Dinkocrats)?
In his closing argument, Kuir Garang postulates that “anyone singing Dinkocracy should go to all the Jieng towns and villages to see whether the average Dinka is benefiting. If your answer is No, then the next time you evangelize Dinkocracy, we’d know you just like the sound of it.” I have passed through some Dinka villages and I was dumbfounded by what I saw. Deep in those bushes surrounded by Muras I saw hundreds of V8 vehicles with GoSS number plates looted from the ministries in Juba parked. The sizes of Muras and herd have expanded beyond believe. Cattle are now transported from Jieng villages to all over Equatoria in trucks in violation of Equatoria way of living with impunity. The Jieng cattle herders are well armed and they freely terrorise others with impunity. This is an advanced development compared to what used to be the situation in South Sudan prior to SPLM/A inception in 1983.
With regards to development, the development taking place in Jieng villages and towns is massive. It is important to put this development in context of Jieng culture. The yard stick of development to an average Jieng is based on the size of the cattle herd one owns. This is already booming. The other is that the Jieng are nomads who do not attach value to places due to the nature of their traveller’s life. Thus physical development in form of housing construction does not mean much to them. Therefore, the argument that because there is no physical development in Jieng villages and towns the Jieng are not beneficiary is spurious.
Finally, to deconstruct the word Dinkocracy demands that whoever would like to do so to address the elements of its definition in order to enlighten the readers. Positive criticism is welcome as it forms the basis of reform and improvement, but to distort and criticise is not helpful. It is not only unethical but rather demeans the critic. It is no good to masquerade as a fair minded “ideas-centred” person while in writing one promotes evasions and manipulations of words to entrench Jieng hegemony in RSS. By arguing and pretending that Jieng people do not benefit in the current system reveals the true values of the author as self serving intellectual involved in promoting Dinkocracy under the counter.[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org